Jem Roberts has been a journalist since his teens, as well as a storyteller, dirty songwriter and above all, a devoted and proud comedy geek. Writing articles for the Peter Cook Appreciation Society’s fagazine, Publish &...
Jem Roberts has been a journalist since his teens, as well as a storyteller, dirty songwriter and above all, a devoted and proud comedy geek. Writing articles for the Peter Cook Appreciation Society’s fagazine, Publish & Bedazzled led to an in-depth feature on ISIRTA and ISIHAC for its follow up, Kettering – The Magazine of Elderly Comedy, and the Teams loved the result so much that Barry Cryer rang the author up and invited him to pen a full-length history of The Antidote to Panel Games, resulting in THE CLUE BIBLE in 2009, about which Graeme Garden insisted, “As Bibles go, I reckon The Clue Bible is among the top two.”
Given carte blanche by Preface Publishing to suggest a follow-up, the need for a celebration of the nation’s favourite sitcom, and his own personal obsession, Blackadder, set Jem on a course to rounding up some of the finest minds in British comedy. Rowan Atkinson had only ever set lawyers on previous authors who attempted to chronicle his career, but for 2012’s The True History of The Black Adder, historian J.F. Roberts managed to gain the approval and participation not just of Atkinson, but most of the show’s stars, including John Lloyd, Stephen Fry, Ben Elton, Richard Curtis, Tony Robinson, Brian Blessed, and many more. The Times Literary Supplement said of the result, ‘J.F. Roberts’s lively, warm-hearted True History of The Black Adder is a celebration of this incredible feat of comedy production’, while The Telegraph insisted the book was ‘essential for any comprehensive comedy library’.
The warmth of the Blackadder history’s reception gave the Douglas Adams estate the confidence to give Jem the honour of becoming the great novelist’s new official biographer, the first to gain access to the Douglas Adams private archive. The updated biography The Frood arrived in 2014, published, like all the books in this range, by Preface. SFX magazine joined hordes of Hitchhiker fans in heaping praise on The Frood and its narrative approach to the creation of a comedy science fiction masterpiece: ‘Roberts's lively, conversational prose never tries to ape Adams's own style, but tells the story of his life in an accessible, compelling flow. A thoroughly absorbing read.’
Stephen Fry himself was kind enough to add, “Jem manages to write about popular cultural institutions with knowledge and affection, while avoiding the dismal traps of nerdy fanboyism on the one hand or grandiose cultural pseudo-intellectualism on the other. His research is flawless and the results are readable, illuminating and delightful.” And this may be why Fry has joined with his colleague to confer upon Jem Roberts the privilege of nosing into their own joint comedy careers, in Soupy Twists!
Besides penning works of comedy history, Jem has also written for The Independent, Edge, Total Film, BBC News, Geeky Monkey, The Telegraph and many more, toured the country giving talks on the Douglas Adams archives and comedy history generally, occasionally performs comedy solo and with his band The Unrelated Family, and is a trustee of The Bath Comedy Festival, creating and curating its annual award for achievement in comedy, The Bath Plug.
However, his greatest accolade, and a constant reminder of why he does all this, is the voluble support of Brian Blessed, who thunders: “Tell them, ‘Brian loves and trusts me.’ What you’re doing is so worthwhile, KEEP AT IT!”